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Characterizing Mice Cancer Models

The laboratory mouse, with its fully sequenced and annotated genome, targeted germline modifications, and many inbred strains, is a popular tool in biomedical research that complements the strengths of human studies.  Mice and humans share genomes of similar size, content and organization, and the mouse is often used to model human disease and to characterize basic biological processes. 

Because mice have been used to inform human disease research for decades, there exists a wide range of tools that are used to catalog the biology and the genetics of mouse cancer models.  In this section they are grouped by whether the techniques assess the genetics of the genome (genotyping), or whether they are methods that assess the biology and physiology (phenotyping), although overlaps between some of the techniques exist.

Genotyping

One key feature to understand about genotyping is that the official sequence of the mouse genome was originally obtained and is maintained and updated by the Mouse Genome Sequencing Consortium (MGSC). This official sequence is sometimes referred to as the reference sequence. In the case of mice, the reference sequence was obtained using female mice of the C57BL/6J strain, nicknamed B6 or black 6 in some situations.  This does not mean to indicate that the sequence is “normal” or not affected by disease, but merely serves as the sequence upon which the community has agreed forms the reference point, and has the specific genome coordinate map that helps the community to understand where the nucleotide or structural variation of other animals is located. For more details about the strategies used for genotyping mouse cancer models specifically, explore the Genotyping section.

Phenotyping

One key feature to understand about phenotyping is that a huge range of standard measurements that evaluate the observable biological characteristics has been developed over decades of research using mouse models.  Data from many strains has been collected, and excellent sources of this data include the Mouse Phenome Database (MPD), and the EUMORPHIA projects.  This data has been obtained for strains across various ages, disease conditions, and treatment situations. There are efforts to standardize   the results using controlled vocabularies such as the Mammalian Phenotype Ontology which will benefit data storage, retrieval, and interoperability among species databases. Data from newly developed models can be compared to existing data sets to obtain valuable insights. For more details about the strategies used for phenotyping mouse cancer models specifically, explore the Phenotyping section.